Friday, May 26, 2017

Obey the Rainy Day


Will is going through a not-listening phase.  I'm fully convinced his ears are absolutely immune to my voice.  I can yell at the top of my lungs, whisper close to his ear, get down on my knees so my eyes are at his level - no response.  Not even a flinch.

He must be absolutely brain dead.  Completely deaf.  There ARE words coming out of my mouth right?!  Surely his ear infection did not do THIS much damage.

Please just listen.  Please just obey.

We just finished a long stretch of spring rain.  Dreary gray clouds and streaky wet windows for days and days and days.  It was absolute drudgery trying to be productive and efficient on those long and sleepy days.  Despite coffee and organized to-do lists and pep talks and all my greatest motivational tricks, I swear I got nothing done for two whole weeks.  Not even a smidge of work.  I may as well have been brain dead.

And then, on the very last day of rain, it dawned on me.  Those rainy days were mamas - trying to get through to me, trying to get me to pay attention.

Please just listen.  Please just obey.

Every blessed pitterpat on my roof saying, "Listen up!  SLOW DOWN.  Read a book.  Find a blanket."  Every dreary cloud trying its darnedest to lull me to sleep - to take one of those glorious, heavy, indulgent sorts of naps right in the middle of the day.  The deeper-than-you-think puddles in the grocery store parking lot reminding my toes it was NOT the time to be running errands, bustling around town like a mad woman.  "Go home.  Make some tea.  Put on your sweatpants.  TAKE A NAP."

Rainy days should be obeyed.  They really should be listened to.

So should moms.
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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Will's Splash + Bubbles Party


Have you seen the new PBS Kids show Splash + Bubbles?  Will has been loving it.  He is so interested in all the names of sea creatures and is learning a lot!  

When I asked him what kind of party he wanted this year, he rotated between lots of things, but finally landed on Splash + Bubbles.  The only problem?  The show is SO new, there are hardly any Splash + Bubbles toys available and nothing out there for themed party gear.  I decided to plan loosely - more ocean themed, with a few Splash + Bubbles tidbits here and there.  


Let me just say here that the more theme parties you do, the cheaper they become.  More and more, I'm collecting a stash of reusable things in the basement that make parties a little more budget friendly.  The more neutral, the more use I get out of things!  For the bigger purchases, like cake stands and bowls, I like to stick to whites and natural wood tones with a few gold and silver things here and there.  Then, the specific theme color scheme can be pulled together with a cheap pack of party napkins and plates.  #winning


Those of you who follow my blog and parties are probably starting to notice I'm sticking to a pretty basic decorating template all the time, too.  Cupcakes on one side, party favors on the other, a centerpiece that takes up a lot of room (less need for more decor), and tableware down the middle.  Following a loose template helps me keep things simple (if it works, don't fix it!) and even more budget-friendly.


Party Lovers, please stop spending billions of dollars on beautifully decorated cakes.  Go to Wal-Mart and buy a dozen white cupcakes for $7 and add some toppers of your own.  I found some Splash + Bubbles clipart online for free, printed them on card stock, cut them into circles, and taped them to some leftover lollipop sticks.  From there, we cut apart some clearanced plastic aquarium sea weed to make a little arrangement.  These cupcakes turned out to be my favorite so far!



These little fish bowls are plastic and very inexpensive from our local pet store.  I already had one on hand for the kids' pet shop play center - score!  Shopping my house before buying party gear always, always, always pays off.



Major thumbs up to Target for their new Cheeky line of party ware.  Every design is adorable.  Glad I had an excuse to buy these plates!  


And seriously...  What's an ocean themed party without SHARK GUMMIES?!  Praise the Lord for Amazon Prime and their selection of specialty candies with free shipping.  Hugs, Amazon.



Simple party favors and Splash + Bubbles tags made from free online clipart and leftover Washi tape.  Will LOVED writing his own name on each card (with Mama's help, of course).


And yes, I bought a stuffed octopus.  It was totally frivolous and silly, but I saw it on Target online and it spoke to me, alright?!  Will has since named it Oliver and sleeps with it every night.  Overall, I still think it was $15 well-spent.


Will's favorite food nowadays is sandwiches, (Please insert a super awesome Joey Tribbiani GIF here...) which is totally fine by me, because does party food GET any easier than sandwiches, chips and a cutie?!  No.  No, it does not.




I would like to take a second to brag about our neighbors.  These kids are just the best.  Though half of them are already in middle school, they are still sweet enough to play with Will and Charlie and still seem delighted to attend their parties.  I know this season won't last forever, but we are relishing every moment we can.  Will and Charlotte worship the ground they walk on, and we are so thankful for the enormous blessing they are to us.  We love our cul de sac family.






Let me give you one more piece of unsolicited advice here and recommend NOT planning or investing in party games.  We have just packed up and gone to the park with Will's friends the last two birthdays, and it's been great.  Throw in a game of kickball, and it's even better.








Happy birthday, little man.  We love you so!
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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Bug Play Dough Kit


Hello, Spring!  We're so glad you're finally here.  It's the perfect season to put together a little bug play dough kit, don't you think?


I took the easy route this time around and used pre-made Play Doh.  We had several colors still sitting in our basement, so might as well get some use out of them!  We chose brown, black and green, but any earthier colors would work well, I think.

We had our bugs and river rocks on hand from other projects.  If I remember correctly, the bugs came in a cheap party favor pack we bought at Wal-Mart for preschool.  There are usually plenty of rock options available in Wal-Mart's greenery/fake flower section too, but many of them are really small and choking hazards!  Choose wisely, here, folks, and wait for the bigger ones!

I purchased a cheap little bag of Sushi grass on Amazon, thinking the kids could make bug habitats with it.  I will say, though, the grass isn't crazy durable and some gets bent up.  For that reason, I only put a small portion of the grass in the kit and saved the rest to use as replacements!


Add a dollar store magnifying glass and some sticks from your yard (we used little pieces of driftwood I found on the beach last summer), and you've got yourself a play doh bug kit, friends.


We spent a short weekend with Mark's family, and I brought this along for some of the cousins to play with - thinking it would only occupy the littler ones.  I was totally surprised to see ALL of the kids - up to 11 years old - having so much fun with it!  Our neighbor kids come over (who are even older) and play with our play dough often too.  All this to say, no one is ever too old to play play dough, folks.


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Monday, April 3, 2017

Thrifting + A ThredUp Review


Alright, gals.  If you haven't tried ThredUp before, you really, really should.  (And no, I'm not getting paid to say this!)

ThredUp is a thrifty girls dream.  Instead of finding a babysitter, driving to your favorite thrift and consignment shops, and spending hours perusing racks and racks of clothing, you can jump on the handy Interweb and go to www.thredup.com.  #winning


ThredUp is a great way to buy and sell clothes online.  What I love most is that they have a big vision - to transform the way people think about buying secondhand, to help make more expensive brands accessible (most pieces are 75-90% off), and to help people shop consciously.  Yay, for more ethical fashion!


A few extra things I love...

The packaging + presentation is amazing.
You know me - I am all about presentation, and ThredUp does not disappoint.  It's kind of fun to buy thrifted, cheap things and receive them in fancy packaging.  Everything is folded neatly, wrapped in tissue paper, with a cute "enjoy" sticker.  Each tag says, "Renewed with Love in San Francisco."  Invoices are folded into a special holder at the very top of the box.  They even include a little booklet that shares more of their vision through some inspiring quotes and pictures.  This is the definition of "happy mail," people.


Free returns!
Just recently, ThredUp added a free return feature to their business.  If you don't like what you bought, you can return it using a prepaid shipping label.  From there, you can return it for credit at NO charge or return it and pay the shipping/restock fee, which I think was around $7 or $8.


New with tags and like-new clothing
Everything I've ever ordered from ThredUp has been in mint condition.  Several pieces still had tags on them.  And that weird smell that some thrift stores have?  Like mildew and basements?  Yeah, these clothes don't have that at all, praise the Lord.


Time saver
When I go old-school thrifting, I always feel like I need to allow hours and hours to really dig through everything.  The treasures are usually never at the front of the rack or in your regular size, and it takes time to try on the different sizes and look for the brands you really like.  Instead, with ThredUp, you can let a search engine do the heavy lifting.  Boom, baby.


A few things I'm unsure of...

Kids Clothing?
I have not found great deals for kids' clothes.  Maybe it's just me, but I'm way less willing to spend money on kids' clothes when I know they will be outgrown or ruined in a month.  I have been able to find cheaper clothing at our local garage sales, consignment shops and Old Navy clearance.



Selling online?
I have not tried SELLING with ThredUp and, again, use my local outlets and stores for that.  I think it'd be worth a try though!


A few tips...

Stay in your lane - shop the brands you already love.
There's no way I can afford to shop at Madewell and Gap regularly, but I know my sizes in those brands, and love the styles they offer.  When I buy second hand in these brands, I am usually really happy with my purchases!  However, I've tried some random brands I didn't know at ThredUp and found the sizing and fit wasn't what I expected.  Since shopping online doesn't allow you to try on different sizes and fits, I think it's best to stick with what you know if you want to be really sure you'll love what you buy.

Take advantage of referral codes, deals and new customer discounts.
If you want to save $10, you can use my referral link.  And, if you end up liking ThredUp, you can use your own referral link to continue to add money to your account.  I check the website often for deals, and have scored some 50% off promotions, $50 off my order, etc.  It's worth perusing and looking for!



See what you think!  I'd love to hear your thoughts, if you try it!


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Monday, March 27, 2017

Bake Shop Center


Our Bake Shop was so fun this winter!  I am just now putting it away and changing things around for Spring.  We put together a hodge podge of things we had laying around in the kitchen and some play food sets we've used for other things.

Please excuse yet another post filled with photos with horrible lighting.  Our basement toy room is great, but the lighting could definitely use some work!


I was PUMPED to find this Hape Mixer on our Swap page for $5.  I had been eyeing it on Amazon for a while, but didn't have the heart to pay full price.  It was the full set - complete with the bowl and pretend bags of brown sugar and flour.  Be still, my play-center-loving-heart... 


I'm becoming more and more impressed by the Learning Resources brand - dare I say even more than Hape or Melissa and Doug?!  This the Learning Resources Just Dessert cake stand that Charlotte got as a gift last Christmas.  I love that each Learning Resources set is made with thick and crazy durable plastic, meaning my kids can bash it, throw it and play with it in water.  (We do tea parties with real water and throw our play food in the bath tub to make "soup.)  They're also easily washed, as opposed to some of the other adorable, but mainly wooden toy brands.



I've left a chalk board in the main play center area, which makes it fun to create a little backdrop for each theme.  




I've been known to dig empty food canisters and jars and potato sacks out of the garbage for extra props.  I can never throw an Archer Farms jar - isn't this pretend cinnamon shaker cute?  Smaller jelly Bell jars make cute Bake Shop extras, too.


Wal-Mart always has a dollar section of tiny spatulas and kitchen tools that came in handy.  I had several of these muffin tins and half cookie sheets left over from another project.



Learning Resources has the cutest Cookie Jar counter I bought a few months ago for a preschool lesson.  Each cookie has a certain number of chocolate chips with the corresponding number printed on the bottom of the cookie.  It's a fun learning activity and adorable prop for centers.


We used a couple of pieces from Melissa + Doug's tea set, a Christmas gift from a few years ago, but really, this bake shop would be great with a variety of things that are probably already sitting in your kitchen and toy room.  As always, shop your house, dig in your garbage (wink, wink), and see what you come up with!  

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